Doorstop, Magill, South Australia

  • Joint transcript with:
  • The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister
Subjects: China Export Tariffs; South Australian Wine Industry

Don Farrell, Minister for Trade & Tourism: Well, welcome to everyone here today. What a magnificent day to be in Adelaide, in South Australia, but what a magnificent day to be at this fantastic historical vineyard of Penfolds. I'm here, of course, with representatives of Penfolds, but more importantly, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister always takes a great interest in South Australia, but on this occasion, he's taken a special interest in South Australia, and, of course, it relates to the wine industry and the difficulties that we've been having with our trade with China. When we came to office almost two years ago, there was something like $20 billion worth of trade bans. As a result of the stabilisation process that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, have been undertaking over that two-year period, we have managed to restore and get back into the Chinese market, most of the products. About four months ago, just after a visit between myself and the Prime Minister to China, China agreed to do a fast-track review of their tariffs - very high tariffs on Australian wine. Earlier this week we got the interim result of that inquiry, and the Chinese Government have agreed to lift all tariffs on Australian wine. We are very confident that in the next few days, that decision will be affirmed and that by the end of the month Australian wine can freely go back into the Chinese market. Now, myself and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister all understand just how difficult it has been over that last three or four years for Australian winemakers. Wine represented - exports to China represented a very, very large portion of our international sales and, of course, it affected South Australia more than any other state because, of course, we not only produce the best wine in the country, but we also produce the largest volume of wine. So, our exports from South Australia were significantly impacted. We're confident that if, as we expect, these tariffs will be lifted by the end of the month, that Australian wine will very quickly go back into the Chinese market and we will have - Chinese consumers will have - the opportunity once again to taste and experience Australian wines, particularly the wines of this wonderful company, Penfolds, here today. I met with the - my Chinese counterpart two weeks ago and have again invited him to come to South Australia, and he's already indicated that he would love to come to South Australia and experience for himself the wonderful wines, the wonderful wineries, the wonderful food and wine, that Adelaide and South Australia has to offer. But, look, I'd particularly like to thank the Prime Minister. He has been focused on the stabilisation of this relationship with China, that's been of particular benefit to South Australia, but on this occasion, to winemakers right across the country. So I'd invite him to say a few words to you.

Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister: Thanks very much, Don, and can I thank you for the work that you've done as Trade Minister. Two great South Australians have worked on this - the Trade Minister, Don Farrell, and the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong - working for Australia's national interest. One in four Australian jobs depends upon our trade. And these are good, secure, well-paid jobs. We want to make sure that the wine industry can benefit from the stabilisation of the relationship just as the barley industry, just as various resource exports, the meat industry - there's been great benefit from the stabilisation of the relationship. When the impediments arose, at that time, wine exports to China were worth over $1.1 billion each and every year, and it was an industry that was growing in terms of that export potential. We know also that for the wine industry, in the last couple of years, there's been pretty good crops. There's a lot of wine that's available for export right now, and we know as well that preparation is occurring. This interim report was a very sound one. The interim decision by China to reopen the trade, we expect to be followed by the end of this month - so in the next couple of weeks - with a positive decision in line with the interim declaration that was made. What that means is more jobs for South Australians. What that means is more jobs for people throughout regional Australia, which is where the wine industry is based. And the wine industry isn't just about the production of wine, it's a critical factor in tourism, in attracting people to wonderful sites the Barossa, in the Clare and McLaren Vale, here in South Australia and in other parts of Australia. South Australia is particularly benefitted by this decision, because over half of the hectares of wine, of grapes, in Australia are right here in South Australia. So this is a very important industry for this great state of South Australia. It's an important industry for our nation, and it's important, as well, that we have a stable relationship. We will host the Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, in Canberra in the coming week, and I look forward to having a further discussion with the Foreign Minister, and we have, of course, invited the Premier of China to visit Australia this year as well for our bilateral leadership talks. These are important - dialogue is always a good thing. Dialogue leads to understanding and it leads to benefit for both of our nations. Australian will benefit from the economic activity that the removal of these impediments will bring. But China will benefit by getting access to the wonderful Australian wines, and so this is a win-win, and I look forward to that decision coming in the next couple of weeks. Happy to take questions.

Journalist: Are you concerned at all that, for places like the Riverland this might just be a little bit too late? There's a lot of growers that are suffering out there right now.

Prime Minister: Look, one of the things that the feedback that we've had from the sector is that particularly a lot of the smaller growers have been under pressure, because they were reliant upon that export trade. But in signalling this, we hope that not just those growers can come through and continue to exist as viable businesses, but they will grow in the future with the confidence that will come. One of the things that has occurred is that there has been some diversification of markets, that's been a good thing. But when it comes to wine, in particular the Chinese industry, it is a huge market, and having it open up again is something that will be very positive.

Journalist: How much of our wine was exported to China and do you expect it to reach those levels again?

Prime Minister: I expect that not only will it reach the levels of $1.1 billion in value, it will top that. I think there has been a build-up, and when I was with the Trade Minister in Shanghai at the Trade Fair at the end of last year, it was obvious. We had a forum in a room that I think was meant to fit probably a couple of hundred people and I reckon there were 400, 500 people trying to get into the room. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about Australian produce and Australian products. We are located in the part of the world that's the fastest growing in human history. That represents an incredible opportunity for Australia. Our agricultural products, including through the wine sector, are clean, they're green, they are high value, high quality, and they are in high demand. So I would expect that you will see a very quick uptake, and that that will exceed previous uptakes, because I think there's pent-up demand there from China. That was very much what we saw when we attended that Trade Fair at the invitation of the Chinese Premier.

Journalist: Prime Minister, this is not a wine question, but you said a couple of days ago that you would take advice, when asked about following US plans to potentially ban TikTok, unless it distanced itself from the Chinese Communist Party. Have you received that advice yet and can you update us on the Government's position on TikTok?

Prime Minister: Look, we receive ongoing advice, but the advice we have at this stage is that it was appropriate to put in place some restrictions on phones and devices that had sensitive material, such as those held by ministers and members of the Government. We put those measures in place. We have no plans at this stage to move beyond that. There are millions of Australians engaged in TikTok, who use it for communication with each other, and we think that you've got to think very carefully, in my view, before you start banning things as a first stop. We will always take security advice, which is what we have done. The security advice isn't to ban TikTok, it is to make sure that, where appropriate, that there be some restrictions and the Government has put that on ourselves.

Journalist: Prime Minister, is your Government concerned it's losing control of immigration detention laws?

Prime Minister: No, but the High Court, when it makes a decision, the Government responds. The High Court made a decision last year, it wasn't one that the Government supported. The Government opposed that decision and made representations to the Court. But we have to comply with the law, and we have. The priority we have is community safety, we'll continue to ensure that that's the case.

Journalist: How many more immigration detainees do you expect will be freed?

Prime Minister: We expect that, we've responded to the Court decision that was there. What we don't do, and can't do, of course, is to pre-empt Court decisions, legal processes. What we can do is put in place community safety measures to ensure that those protections are there and that's precisely what we've done.

Journalist: You must have some idea, though - you've hired extra lawyers with this upcoming court case. Is it dozens of detainees? Hundreds maybe?

Prime Minister: We respond appropriately and we're ensuring, unlike the former government - that wasn't presiding over an orderly migration system, they presided over a system that was broken - we're making sure that that isn't the case. One of the things that we are doing, of course, is to get appropriate legal advice, so that we can make appropriate submissions when court cases are brought.

Journalist: You kind of touched on it, but what measures are being put in place to protect the community from criminal detainees?

Prime Minister: We've said very clearly, for example - monitoring and the measures that have been put in place through Government directives, through regulations, but also the legislation that we carried at the end of last year.

Journalist: Aged care wage reform, the decision yesterday, some providers are concerned about the cost of that. What do you say to those concerns?

Prime Minister: Well, we know that we had an Aged Care Royal Commission that found that unless we paid aged care workers more, the system was in crisis, and it wouldn't have a workforce. You can't have an aged care system that doesn't have a workforce. Some people were leaving the sector because they were able to earn more stacking shelves than they were looking after our older Australians, doing what is tough work. It can be demanding physically. But it can also be demanding emotionally. These are older Australians who deserve dignity and respect, and they rely upon the people who look after them. They build relationships with the workforce. And that can be a very demanding job. I've met with hundreds of aged care workers over my time as a Leader of the Labor Party and then Prime Minister, but previously, I was Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, some time ago, so this is a sector of which I'm very familiar. But over a period of time, under the former government, there was neglect. That was the one-word summary of an interim report - neglect. Older Australians deserve better than neglect. What they deserve is appropriate care. This finding, on top of the 15 per cent wage increase that we presided over as a result of the previous Fair Work Commission interim decision, has meant that aged care workers are able to earn more, together with our tax cuts, which will enable them to keep more. We have said that we want Australians to earn more and to keep more of what they earn, and nowhere is that more important than with the aged care sector.

Journalist: Do you think it's a bit disingenuous that the providers are raising these concerns when the Government said they will fund those wage increases?

Prime Minister: Look, I think that the aged care sector overwhelmingly do a very good job. But the issue of wages and retention of staff, quality of food, it's a major initiative that we took to the last election. One of my visits to Adelaide here was for the announcement we did at the Adelaide Markets, there in the city with Maggie Beer, about better food and nutrition for older Australians. That is now being rolled out. I've been back here to Amanda Rishworth's electorate, here in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, with Maggie Beer, seeing firsthand the difference that that's making. Treating our older Australians with respect, giving them the nutrition that they deserve, and in that case, it's not actually about spending more money, it's about getting it right, and it is appalling that the Aged Care Royal Commission found that a high percentage of older Australians in aged care were actually starving. They weren't getting the nutrition that they needed. And that's an indictment on a country like Australia. We needed to do better. We are doing better. These wage cases are part of it. But we will continue to work with the sector in order to ensure that older Australians get the care and dignity in their later years that I believe they deserve.

Journalist: Do you think more can be done for those other workers, food service workers, for example, laundry workers, some of those that didn't get those big wage increases? Do you think more can be done to retain those kind of staff?

Prime Minister: The Fair Work Commission, of course, has handed down its decision. It's quite a complex decision. We'll work our way through it. But there has been, of course, a sizable increase in aged care workers across the board already under my Government. In addition to that, every worker, every taxpayer, will benefit from our tax cuts as well. That means more dollars in the pocket, and will make an enormous difference. Thanks very much.

Journalist: Before you go, the Voice vote today, First Nations Voice in SA - do you welcome it? Do you see it as potentially something that could be rolled out across the country, something similar to that?

Prime Minister: Well, there is something similar already in place in Victoria and the Victorian system has operated. We've had significant announcements this week of benefit to Indigenous Australians, in the Northern Territory in particular. Our Remote Housing Package will make an enormous difference over the next decade. We need to address closing the gap in so many areas. My Government's focus is on closing the gap. We had a housing announcement this week. We also had a deal done on education funding, a billion dollars of additional funding, more than $700 million of which is from the Commonwealth, to make sure that no child gets left behind. We need to make sure that we acknowledge that, on so many areas, we haven't been able to close the gap and we need to do better across education, across health, across housing. That's my Government's focus. Thanks very much.

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